Brand Loyalty As Prices Rise

I got the last squeeze out of the toothpaste. Time to toss it out and open a fresh tube. This time I’m going from Crest to Colgate. As I open the new box it makes me think about how loyal I am to product brands and my shopping patterns.

There are certain products that I buy and stay loyal to. This is because they do exactly as they say or taste as they should, and I will not stray. But there are degrees of loyalty.

Am I willing to pay over $5 for cereal or toothpaste, or more than $10 for laundry detergent? How about the prices for paper products? As we know, it all adds up, so while we’re shopping we are being selective about which brands we’re willing to pay for and which we’re not.

Two women shopping in supermarket

In Wikipedia, Philip Kotler defines four patterns of behavior: Hard-Core Loyals (who buy a single brand all the time); Split Loyals (loyal to two or three brands); Shifting Loyals (moving from one brand to another); Switchers with no loyalty (possibly ‘deal-prone,’ constantly looking for bargains or ‘vanity prone,’ looking for something different.)

But, in an economy where average people’s salaries haven’t risen in quite a while, and everything costs more than last year, do some of these merge? Do we become Hard-Core Loyals looking for bargains?

Building Brand Loyalty

Now let’s think about those brands and how they are advertising to us, the consumers, and what they would need to do to make us that Hard-Core Loyal, willing to pay for their product over a cheaper one.

Some brands offer deals, such as buy 10, get one free, so they’re making you come back 10 times to get the bonus. I believe this could work, but again it would depend on what brand it is and whether I favor it to begin with. If I do, it’s going to reinforce my loyalty. For example: I do love Starbucks coffee, it’s strong and flavorful, and I buy their Sumatra blend, a dark roast. I have it ground Turkish style, so I can make coffee at home just the way I like it. They also have a rewards program and as I gain points they give back by adding free drinks and bonuses to my card. I’d say I’m a Hard-Core Loyal for Starbucks, and it is nice to be rewarded. In addition, I like that they care about the environment and are helping in a variety of ways from making responsibly produced products to reducing their environmental footprint to caring about local communities.

Let’s also factor in the store we’re shopping in and whether they carry the brand we want or are they loyal to stocking the brands who offer better deals. Or placing products in more prominent locations so we see them first. Think of your local convenience store, do they have the organic foods you want, or do you have to shop elsewhere to find them? Not only that, two different stores that stock the same item might charge a completely different price.

Then there are some brands who disappoint us by their actions, such as BP or Abercrombie & Fitch. In the case of BP, they are trying really hard through advertising to win us back. I’m not sure how effective the ads are, but I do know that some people forget over time. Not me. As for Abercrombie & Fitch, they flaunted their exclusivity in our faces and laughed at us, the average consumers. That brought them some seriously bad publicity and turned me and many off from their brand. It’s their brand message to be for the “beautiful people” only, and so they will only have the consumers who think they fit that look. Good luck to the beautiful parents whose kids aren’t quite so and want those products…

Then there are some brands who get it right, and I wrote about them previously (Dove and Toms): Companies Building the Like-Trust Factor Win Us for Life.”

As a brand visibility designer helping businesses build their brands, I emphasize to clients that it’s more important than ever for businesses to be crystal clear in their messages. What they do, how they do it, and why they do it better than any other business. You have to respect your customers and operate every day in a manner that leads them and keeps them being hard-core for you.

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